“And When they (the wise men) saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2
It’s a lot easier to follow a lot of rules and be good and nice than it is to actually follow Jesus and live what He says. Because one involves tweaking behavior and the other involves a radical heart change.
A heart change that seeks to understand and enter in, rather than only associating with people like us, because it’s easier and feels nice. A heart change that is more interested in seeing the kingdom of God come in people’s lives than building my own comfortable kingdom of codes of conducts and preferred traditions.
When I read the Christmas story this heart change is actually a dividing line between the characters.
On one side, there were acceptable people who were too religious and proper for the Kingdom of Heaven. They had no time for a poor pregnant girl and a child born on the wrong side of town. And then there were others who had open hearts, like Simeon and Anna, who were listening to God and living out of what God had told them. They didn’t miss it.
On one side, there were religious powerhouses who wanted a king and were looking for a savior of their own making. One who knew and valued their ideas and all their law-keeping, one who validated the importance of their customs.
And on the other, there were wise men outside the church, who were looking and searching and followed God’s leading instead of staying in the molds of their own wisdom. They had the opportunity to discover and worship the Kingdom of Heaven come to earth. They didn’t miss it.
One side, in all the vehemence of their religiosity, missed the manger. They missed the manger, then the ministry, the cross, and the resurrection because listening to their own ideas was more important to them than what Jesus was actually saying. Their story tells us that religion without the cross is as good as unbelief. And we can miss everything while looking right and respected our entire lives.
The others – motley shepherds, foreign wise men, trusting teenagers, aged listening saints – they didn’t miss it. They laid down their perceptions, their ideas and listened to what God was actually saying.
I think we need to honestly ask ourselves: are we missing out of the Kingdom of Heaven by passing off Jesus’ words and holding our own ideas closer, when we take the paved acceptable way instead of the way of the cross?
We all align ourselves with the people who didn’t miss it, but if we transfer this cast of characters to today, it should make us pause when we see where we fall – rejoicing or rejecting.